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Monthly Archives: April 2016

Build Email List?, Here Its Tips

Thinking of purchasing a list of email addresses? It might seem easy, but it will make things harder down the road. Follow these best practices to build your email list and put your program in a position for success now and in the future.

# Build or buy?

Email marketing’s track record as a high-ROI online marketing tool makes it tempting for marketers to purchase mailing lists to extend their success. Unfortunately, there’s often a big difference in results between in-house and outside lists. The damage to your reputation as a sender—in the form of SPAM complaints—can have long-term consequences and impact the deliverability of future messages. When that happens, even people who specifically asked to receive your messages may wonder why your emails are ending up in the Junk folder. The best way to ensure optimal ROI and to protect yourself from SPAM complaints, is to build and maintain your own email list.

# List building takes teamwork.

Many organizations use a variety of tools to help manage the relationship they have with their customers, and to insure that information is being shared throughout the organization. Make sure that the email address field is on the initial data entry screen, and that the individuals collecting this information from customers are actively encouraged—perhaps even incentivized—to ask callers for their email address and permission for the company to send email to them in the future.

# Customer Forms

Most companies have a wide variety of forms that customers fill out in order to do business or conduct a transaction. Add an entry field for email in a prominent position on these forms, along with a checkbox to opt-in to company email communications. You can collect a large number of new email addresses this way

# Point of Sale

If you’re in a retail environment and use a point of sale system with a keyboard, your vendors may have already incorporated an email field into their system. If not, it may be easy for them to add the field. Strongly encourage staff, or incentivize them, to actively request and capture this information. Many customers have good results when they offer employees a monthly reward of a $25 gift certificate for the employee who gathers the most names

# Website

If you have good web traffic, your website is one of your best sources of email addresses. Add an email capture field on your front page, but don’t request any additional information. Your email capture rate will increase 30-40% compared to asking a customer to fill out a lengthy form. If you want to collect additional data after the email address is entered, you can take that user to a second page, or followup with them in the future to obtain the additional data.

# Sales People

Many sales people have already captured customer email addresses, and even if they are not in the contact management or CRM system, they maintain them on either a personal database, their email list, or even a handheld device. Strongly encourage sales people who have built such a list to add them to the database with the customer’s permission.

# List Maintenance

A clean mailing list is more cost-effective and efficient. It affects your professional image and the delivery of future emails. Keep track of email addresses that can’t be delivered (hard bounce), those that generate automated responses (soft bounce) and those whose recipients never open your emails. Remove or suppress them from your list. They skew your response metrics and add incremental cost to your programs.

Manage Business Tips

As a business expands so does its associated needs. Get in front of the curve. Take time to lay the foundation for your company’s growth. Our tips will help you support the growth you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

# Plan for growth

Your business plan is the roadmap to your company’s growth. It should reflect the overall company vision as well as the strategy and goals of each functional area: sales, marketing, finance, operations, IT, human resources, etc. Annual updates are recommended, but during periods of rapid change more frequent revisions may be required to ensure the plan is directing growth.

# Manage your cash flow

Insufficient cash flow is one of the key reasons businesses fail. To manage your cash flow, set up a forecast for day-to-day expenses. Things like rent, utilities, lease payments, payroll, supplies, etc. The more variable your sales and revenue, the more frequently you should update your forecast. When you’re in the enviable position of surplus cash, use your forecast to help determine the most effective way to invest it.

# Revisit your margins

Are your prices and profits optimized? Gain a solid understanding of what your business offers relative to your competition. The more unique or advantageous your products and services, the greater their value. Make sure your prices and profits reflect the market, the value your company provides and your overall business plan.

# Improve your cash flow

When you need to increase your cash flow, creating incentives to increase sales may not be the answer. A quick spike in sales may actually increase demand for cash, depending on your type of business and receivables timeline. Consider the following:

  •  Negotiate with your suppliers on terms
  • Compare suppliers to reduce costs or improve terms
  • Actively manage your accounts receivable
  • Consider incentives for customers to pay quickly
  • Consider accepting payments via credit card
  • Ensure you have an effective process to collect on overdue bills
  • Renegotiate or decrease interest rates on loans

# Invest in productivity

The demand for improved productivity continues through times of growth or decline. An investment in productivity, whether it’s training, research, planning or technology often contributes immediate benefits to the bottom line.

# Watch for opportunities and threats The pace of change is faster than ever.

Keep track of changes in your industry both globally and locally that affect your business. Look for opportunities you can capitalize on, and threats to avoid or counteract.

# Plan for growth They say growth is the best problem a business can have.

The faster the growth, the more quickly its challenges must be addressed. To stay ahead of the growth curve, planning is essential. Here are some key impacts a growing business should plan for:

  • Increased supply of products and/or delivery of services
  • Expanded distribution/sales channels
  • Finding, screening and hiring the right people/partners
  • Preparing/training your existing workforce to handle growth that may include changes in responsibility and reporting
  • Increased space, equipment, infrastructure
  • Greater demand for cash, as growth almost always leads sales/profits
  • Increased need for short- and long-term planning across business functions
  • Expanded need for communication across the business
  • Revised procedures and policies

# Stay informed

What happens when business realities don’t follow the business plan? When setting goals, invest some time in discussion of contingencies. Identify the top threats and risks to your goals and how to monitor them. If a threat increases, you’ll have an “early warning system” to help deal with the situation before it becomes a crisis.

# Keep growing

Change is inevitable. Try to embrace change as opportunity. Keep seeking new learning, new challenges and never stop growing—as a business and as an individual.

Grow Your Business Tips

It’s possible to build on your success even in challenging economic times. The basic principles of staying focused on delivering real customer value while remaining true to your goals become even more important. If your business is growing, or you’d like it to, here are some ideas and resources to help you.

# Customers first.

Celebrate your customers and align any growth plan around protecting your existing relationships. Sustainable business growth depends on keeping your customers happy, just as it did when you started your business. Consider creating customer reward programs (discounts, extended payment terms, etc.) to ensure customer loyalty.

# What makes your business unique?

Being able to express your business’s core principles and values will help you choose appropriate growth strategies. If you haven’t done so already, create a polished 20 second “elevator speech” that summarizes your business’s products and uniqueness. This summary will help you focus branding and marketing efforts, and will provide the core for conversations with those you reach out to.

# Sell solutions, not widgets.

Ramping up sales is easier when you focus on this reality: you’re selling a result, not a thing. Avoid “feature dumps” that emphasize the characteristics of your product rather than how it benefits your customer. The most effective sales conversation begins with questions to determine if your prospective buyer has a need for what you’re selling. The goal is to match your products and services to what your prospect needs. If you can’t make a match, move on.

# Growth? Look out!

A challenge for many small business owners is shifting their perspective from inside their business—the daily details of running the business, to outside the business—developing a strategy for growth, researching markets, understanding competition and so on. Need help? Reach out for resources. Look for ways to harness the expertise and experience of others through networking. As time permits, join associations and attend meetings. It takes time, but can yield benefits without requiring capital.

# Marketing.

Complementing your sales efforts with marketing is key to growth. It helps you get your message out to more prospects, creating demand for your products or services. It’s important to develop your branding and incorporate it in all your marketing. If you haven’t done so already, determine a look and feel (type style, graphics, color scheme, logo) and stick with it. Always include a “call to action” telling prospects what you’d like them to do. Your marketing pieces should also include a compact version of your “elevator speech” for consistency and branding.

# Working the numbers.

When your new business level requires expanded facilities, new equipment and increased staff, how will you pay for it all? If you’re “growing slow”, can you “self finance” these requirements through profits? If not, when you’re considering loans or mortgages, check out the Small Business Administration website in the US, or the Canada Business Network website for information on loans and grants. While you’re there, surf around. There’s a wealth of free information on a broad range of topics like writing a business plan, business law and regulations and finding local resources.

# How many people does it take to create success? As your business grows, the workload becomes more distributed, requiring more employees. Controlled growth means adding these employees slowly and deliberately. If you’re not sure you’ll have sustained revenue to support direct hire employees, consider temporary contract employees. It’s a great way to harness a skill you may only need temporarily. And “test driving” an employee is a great way to find if you have a good fit for longer term employment. 8. You’re the engine. Everyone in your business impacts sustainability and growth. Make sure all employees understand and can implement everyday operating procedures. Keep to your organizing principles, focus on your customers and engage help when you need it. Good luck!